What is literary art today? It doesn’t mean the same thing it did in the past. Now, we are keen on jargon and mired in cynicism. Yes, Machiavelli was a cynic, but today the culture as a whole drinks this tainted milk as opposed to the views of past sporadic writers. Writing today has lost connection. To what? To whom? Who is the writer writing to? Is he or she just writing for the sake of writing?
We have Art for Art’s Sake and this would seem to include writing as an art form. The novel has become an extension of thought, sometimes idle, sometimes noteworthy, at the expense of careful crafting or technique. Now, writers feel they can say anything, disregarding grammar and logic. If it sells, it is good. If a movie deal is struck, then bingo. Society is sold on making a fast buck in any extended way possible.
Fifty Shades of Grey is an example of despicable writing that has been sensationalized by virtue of its warped content. I have not read the books nor seen the movie. I do not even like Nabokov for his pedophilic matter, let alone twisted sex and violence, which is all the Grey connection amounts to. And why should our culture become so hyped up by sexual content that it can’t bear to tear its greedy little eyes from the sordid? Why is this kind of writing so attractive? What does this kind of writing mean?
It’s hard not to become cynical. To write once meant something beyond the ordinary, and in some world spaces it still prompts revolutions and inspires respect. But in our Western culture, there are so many unregulated, opposing and dissenting voices—so many thoughts. Everyone feels they can write simply because they learned some words in school. But not many have studied philosophy, or tried to study the perspectives of the other, be it another culture, gender, sex, race etc…. Everyone wants to speak. Does everyone have the right to speak? Do the lunatic fascists need to write a book on how they burned the black neighbourhood or ousted the Jews? But I’m not for censoring, either. Good voices may be stifled, have been stifled; bad voices have been encouraged. By whom? Who is the higher “judge” that deems this writing good and that writing bad?
It is the public who decides. It supports that which pleases it. Shades of disillusionment. I just listened to a broadcast with Jonathan Kay, editor of the Walrus, who defended the question: “Why is the Walrus so Boring?” Is it truly boring, or are the articles serious in a meaningful way, sans glitter and glamour? Is this what we have amounted to: a society of quick, cynical and circular thought-voices that wouldn’t know quality if it bit them?
Maybe there are fewer good writers out there because fewer study literature and philosophy, and even fewer can discuss what is really at stake in the world. It seems people now only write like birds eat; along with the perpetual tweeting. Although Vallum has a twitter account, I will not be on it. This kind of “quick fix” is not for me. You’ll find me around, writing and reading, and probably being somewhat cynical. Some habits are hard to break. But writing should come from deep inside, with some meaningful conviction that points to the betterment of humankind. Enough with the chirping already!